This #WomensHistoryMonth, and in the theme of what we’re growing Coco & Cowe to be, we’re highlighting the voices of our very own team. Wanting to tell our own authentic stories, we asked them: What do you want the world to know about your experience being a woman?
My original intention with this piece was to impart some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned over my short 24 years of life (I’m 24 as of tomorrow). However, as we refined our editorial theme for this month, I figured I could impart some of those same thoughts, but from the lens of womanhood. My hunch was right: anything I had to share regarding either was actually nearly one and the same.
There have been many a time that I have thought that “men are the scum of this earth” (strong, I know, but I won’t lie), but no, I have never wished that I was not a woman. I’m proud of that, that my integrity and self-identity as a woman have never been compromised in the face of all the gendered inequalities that women, both cis and trans, experience.
There’s another element to my being a woman that I don’t often get the chance to talk about, however, so I’m making room for it now.
I’m Vietnamese. I was born to Vietnamese parents in Germany in 1994, and we moved to Canada in 1999. My identity, when I think of myself, is not Vietnamese-Canadian, or simply Canadian, but actually, Vietnamese. So, I’m a Vietnamese woman, and you bet I experience a lot of microaggressive and casual racism, alongside the sexism.
I love the rightful rise of Black and Latinx faces in popular media today, but we still have a long way to go. Not only for Black and Latinx folks, but also for Asian folks, whom I honestly think the media and people in general do not know how to perceive or include. To put it into context, more white actresses playing Asians have won Oscars than actual Asian actresses. Yes, you’re right. That is insane. That, and the erasure of prominent Asian faces in film and TV, like this, and this, and this. I refrained from listing more for brevity, but oh, are there more. Like – it has to be mentioned – the racism committed at Wildflower, a nightclub here in Toronto, over the past weekend.
My point is this: the lack of representation of Asian faces has been detrimental to the world as a whole, and to the individual world of every person who identifies as Asian.
Like when I expressed my love of chocolate-covered ginger to someone, and they muttered, “Of course, says the Chinese person.” Uh-huh. Or when people find out I’m Vietnamese, and they talk about how they’ve visited Vietnam before, or how they want to, as I simply try and pick up my groceries and keep moving.
My experience with womanhood has been visible as a woman (and shared with many other women), but invisible, and not understood, as a Vietnamese woman. How can I be one thing, but not the other? That’s a question I tackle every day. They’re both me, but mutually exclusive.
What I want the world to know is that Asian women are amazing. What I want the world to know is that being Asian is not the only thing I am. What I want the world to know is that you actually need to put some of your own time in to learning more about other people’s cultures, because we, as the “unknown and misunderstood”, don’t owe it to you to teach you.
What I want the world to know is that I, and other Asian women, have been here, living our individual lives: get ready to see us, in all our beauty and intricacies.